Friday, July 10, 2015


Noble Shabbiness

Charles Baxter, "Introduction" to Wright Morris (1910-1998), Plains Song: For Female Voices (1980; rpt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), p. v:
The Japanese have a word—sabi—that refers to any object that after many years has acquired a quality of what we might call "noble shabbiness." This noble shabbiness might be imagined as the weathering of a piece of furniture that has been worn smooth by use and age. Nothing you buy at the mall can possess sabi. Only those objects that have been worked and touched for a long time can have it. Sabi is found not in the beauty of youth but instead in the beauty of wear and tear, the beauty of something that has stood the test of time and is still standing in spite of everything. Sabi is the acquired soul of a created thing as it grows old.
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), "Von allen Werken," first stanza, from his Poems 1913-1956, ed. John Willett et al. (London: Methuen, 1976; rpt. 1987), p. 192:
Of all the works of man I like best
Those which have been used.
The copper pots with their dents and flattened edges
The knives and forks whose wooden handles
Have been worn away by many hands: such forms
Seemed to me the noblest. So too the flagstones round old houses
Trodden by many feet, ground down
And with tufts of grass growing between them: these
Are happy works.

Von allen Werken, die liebsten
Sind mir die gebrauchten.
Die Kupfergefässe mit den Beulen und den abgeplatteten Rändern
Die Messer und Gabeln, deren Holzgriffe
Abgegriffen sind von vielen Händen: solche Formen
Schienen mir die edelsten. So auch die Steinfliesen um alte Häuser
Welche niedergetreten sind von vielen Füssen, abgeschliffen
Und zwischen denen Grasbüschel wachsen, das
Sind glückliche Werke.

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